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Parliament inquiry exposes UK women’s ‘harrowing’ birth trauma

Led by Conservative MP Theo Clarke and Labour MP Rosie Dunfield, the inquiry finds postcode lottery for quality of maternity and postnatal care in England.

‘The stories referred to by the inquiry are all too familiar to us,’ Jon Crocker, head of clinical negligence at Bindmans LLP, tells Social Care Today. ‘We see the same issues arising year after year with little sign of learning from mistakes. These problems have been compounded by a shortage of experienced midwives, and staff retention problems. There is little sign that the multiple inquiries into maternity care at a number of Trusts over the last decade have led to a sea change in the delivery of services. It is time for a centrally led overhaul.’

closeup photo of baby on blue blanket

The Birth Trauma Inquiry, of which the results were published yesterday morning, called for an overhaul of the UK’s maternity and postnatal care after finding that poor care is tolerated as ‘normal’. The findings, which were comprised of evidence given by more than 1,300 women, can be described as nothing short of sickening.

Some women said that after giving birth they were left in blood-soaked sheets while others claimed their children had suffered life-changing injuries due to medical negligence. Moreover, women complained they weren’t listened to when they felt something was wrong and were mocked or shouted at as a result.  

Against this backdrop, the inquiry estimated that 30,000 women a year – in the UK alone – have suffered negative experiences during childbirth and one in 20 develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Commenting on the findings, NHS England’s chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said the experiences detailed are simply ‘not good enough’.

Ms Pritchard added: ‘We know there is more than can be done to prevent and improve support for birth trauma, which is why we are committed to working with the Department for Health and Social Care on a cross-government strategy to build on the NHS three-year delivery plan for maternity and neonatal services, so that we can continue to make care safer and more personalised for women and babies.’

Whilst analysing the findings from the inquiry, Theo Clarke told the BBC there was a clear ‘postcode lottery’ for maternity care in this country.

Speaking to the Radio 4 Today programme, she said: ‘I don’t think is acceptable – that depending on where you live, you will literally be offered a different level of care in terms of how you’re given support during childbirth and afterwards.’

Since the findings have been published, MPs have created a report for the government which has put forward 12 recommendations to help improve services.

These include:

  • Recruit, train and retain more midwives, obstetricians and anaesthetists to ensure safe levels of staffing
  • Respect mothers’ choices around access to pain relief and giving birth
  • Prioritise tackling inequalities in maternity care for ethnic minorities, particularly black and Asian women
  • Grant universal access to specialist maternal mental health services to end the postcode lottery across the UK

Image: Carlo Navarro

More on this topic:

New drug to assist with traumatic childbirth could be made accessible for all 

Better reproductive health education urged to tackle parenthood fears

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